There are many options for consumers to choose from when it comes to finding the right hearing aid for their needs, thanks to increased competition in the hearing aid market. However, many people still don't realize they are buying a locked hearing aid.
What are locked hearing aids?
In the same way that a locked phone limits you to a particular phone provider, locked hearing aids confine you to a particular hearing aid provider. Locked hearing aids cannot be altered or programmed by any other clinic and need clinic-specific programming software. Your alternatives for care outside of your local clinic are drastically reduced. A code is programmed into the hearing aid by the clinic or manufacturer to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the settings. This means that you could have to buy new hearing aids if you require assistance while you're abroad or wish to transfer hearing health providers.
Why stay away from locked hearing aids?
The annoying effects of locked hearing blindside consumers aid in a few different ways:
You won't be able to shop around for better service. If you're unsatisfied with the care that you receive from that specific clinic, and you cannot take these hearing aids elsewhere to have them reprogrammed.
You could encounter issues when moving or traveling out of state. You might not be able to get assistance from another provider if you relocate or leave the region of the original provider from which you bought the devices. Or the franchise/proprietary office might no longer be reachable.
The hearing aid might be incorrectly fitted. Hearing professionals like us frequently meet patients who have switched to a different provider to get a second opinion because the devices were initially fitted incorrectly. If you already purchased locked hearing aids, you would not be able to get a second evaluation of your hearing aids. We frequently encounter disgruntled patients who have paid a small fortune for a set of hearing aids that aren't benefiting them enough. The patient requests programming services, but the provider is unable to provide any assistance to them. Proper fitting and testing must occur for a hearing aid user to experience success with their purchase.
The company may have closed down. Hundreds of people are left stranded with hearing aids that cannot be programmed or modified by any other nearby providers when a private office closes. This means the patient has to buy brand-new hearing aids.
Which hearing aid brands are locked?
The following brands are usually always locked:
- Kirkland Signature brand (Costco)
- Sam's Club
- Audigy (AGX)
- earlier Avada hearing aids
This list is not exhaustive because any practice may choose to lock its hearing aids.
While some of these brands (Sam's Club, Walmart, and Zounds) are entirely proprietary and cannot be altered by outside vendors, others are the same brands and models sold under various names. Beltone hearing aids, for instance, are Resound, Audibel and NuEar are Starkey, Miracle-Ear is Signia (formerly Siemens), Avada hearing aids are Oticon, and Audigy and Kirkland Signature can be made by several different companies.
What advantages do unlocked hearing aids offer?
The main advantage of having an unlocked hearing aid is that switching to a different hearing specialist is straightforward. No new hearing aids are required. This is great since it enables you to compare services rather than being forced to work with a specific audiologist or provider because you don't want to purchase a new gadget.
How to stay away from purchasing locked hearing aids
How can you thus prevent having only one provider that can fix your hearing aids? Before committing to a pair, try asking the medical professional you see if these hearing aids are "locked." Or, "Where can I take my hearing aids for service if I'm out of town?" You might want to think twice about buying them if the response is that you can only visit that particular kind of business or clinic. Additionally, even though the technology may look up to date when you buy hearing aids at a warehouse club or big box store, they can sell older models that have been on the open market for a while.
Every hearing aid we sell is unlocked.
At Silicon Valley Hearing we believe in the simple principle that you should be able to own your hearing aids and have complete control over them. That's why we will never sell you a locked hearing aid. Contact us today to set up an appointment.